The Gympie thick-tailed gecko, Phyllurus kabikabi appears to be one of Queensland's most narrowly distributed and least known reptile species. Prior to this project it was known from a single rocky outcrop within a small protected area west of Gympie in south-eastern Queensland, Australia. Over the following two decades, since first being discovered in 1997, less than ten animals had been recorded at this small outcrop in moist semi-evergreen vine forest.
The aim of this project was to increase our understanding of this narrowly restricted species so that its distribution and conservation status could be determined. The objectives were to: initiate a monitoring program of the only known population to determine the current population extent and size; to increase our understanding of the distribution of the species; and, to identify potential threatening processes and effective strategies to mitigate these identified threats.
With funding from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, we conducted fieldwork during the summer of 2016/2017. During the first survey we learned that the complex environment where the nocturnal gecko lives makes the species very challenging to detect, and that traditional herpetofauna survey methods (active searching and funnel trapping) were not going to be enough. During this first trip time-lapse camera traps were deployed to see if we could detect active geckos moving over the deep layer of broken rocks. We had low confidence because cameras are rarely used for geckos but much to our surprise, we detected a few geckos in a very short space of time! Over the course of the summer, using both cameras and active searching we recorded the geckos at not only the Type Locality but also at three new, but disjunct, rocky outcrops within the small protected area.
Surveys outside the only occupied protected area for the Gympie thick-tailed gecko have not detected the species, even with the increased detection rates using the novel time-lapse camera trapping technique. However, new areas containing suitable habitat have been identified for future surveys.
This work has also added significant information about several other threatened species in the region, including extending the range of the critically endangered Nangur spiny skink, Nangura spinosa and an endangered plant, Plectranthus omissus.
Project 162513702 location - Australia, Oceania